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Christie's sells controversial Tut sculpture for $6 million

By Danielle Haynes
Christie's sells controversial Tut sculpture for $6 million
The quartzite statue of King Tutankhamun dates to between 1332 to 1323 B.C. File Photo courtesy of Christie's

July 5 (UPI) -- A quartzite bust of the pharaoh Tutankhamun sold for nearly $6 million in a Christie's auction in London despite objections from Egypt that the statue was stolen.

The 11.25-inch sculpture sold for $5.95 million on Thursday.

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Last month, Egypt's foreign and antiquities ministries asked Christie's to halt the auction of the statue, which is more than 3,000 years old. Officials said it was stolen from Egypt and should be returned.

"The antiquities ministry has contacted the auction house and UNESCO to stop the procedures of selling the ancient artifact as well as demanding that [Christie's] provide the documents of the artifact's ownership," the foreign ministry said in June.

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"In addition, Egypt claims its right in the piece under the current and previous Egyptian laws."

Egypt passed a law in 1983 saying that ancient artifacts from the country are considered property of the state with the exception of any items that have proven ownership or possession prior to the passage of the law.

Former Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass said the sculpture likely came from Monto Temple north of Karnak, or one south of Karnak, the Temple of Mut. He said Antiquities Minister Khalid Anani called for a committee to investigate the origins of the statue.

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The statue was sold by a private collector. Christie's said a Munich-based dealer, Heinz Herzer, acquired the statue in 1985. Before that, it was acquired by Austrian dealer Joseph Messina in the mid-1970s and before that, it was owned by Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis, who had it since the 1960s.

"It is hugely important to establish recent ownership and legal right to sell which we have clearly done," Christie's said before the auction. "We would not offer for sale any object where there was concern over ownership or export.

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